Lebanon County will pay $4.75m to estate of Cedar Crest grad who died from complications to heroin withdrawal, but will not admit wrongdoing

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The estate of Victoria “Tori” Herr has settled with Lebanon County over claims of civil rights violations and wrongful death involving the Lebanon County Correctional Facility. Herr’s estate will receive $4.75 million.

Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg & Lin (KRMFL) and Neufeld, Scheck, and Brustin (NSB) represented the estate of the deceased. The case was litigated by Jonathan Feinberg of KRMFL and Emma Freudenberger and Rick Sawyer of NSB. Attorney Hugh O’Neill out of Harrisburg represented Warden Robert Karnes and other jail staff, and was quoted by the AP as noting that the case had been resolved “amicably” with no acknowledgement of wrongdoing. One wonders how amicable a settlement can be when someone’s daughter lies dead, and with no reason for either party to believe that the same thing couldn’t happen again.

Herr had been incarcerated on March 27, 2015 after police found her at her boyfriend’s while raiding the house for drugs. By Herr’s own account she was addicted to heroin on the order of 10 packets per day. The days that followed must have felt like hell. Herr was reported by cellmates to have gone through repeated cycles of vomiting and diarrhea, requiring cleanup of her cell. On March 31, 2015, Herr went into cardiac arrest after collapsing outside her cell and  She died on April 5, 2015, at Lehigh Valley Hospital.

This is not the first time Warden Karnes has been accused of maladministration. Although state-level administration has been recognized for progressive policies regarding opioid treatment, no Lebanon County official has admitted that the system could have worked better in this circumstance, let alone discussing what and how things might be changed based on these events. Nearly three years and five million dollars later, one would hope that LCCF has since improved in some way from this awful tragedy, but there’s simply no evidence that has occurred.

Tori Herr should not have died in the Lebanon County Correctional Facility. She had a serious condition which easily could have been treated.

Jonathan Feinberg of KRMFL to the Lebanon Daily News

Attorney Feinberg said in his firm’s press release, “The days of viewing people addicted to drugs as junkies unworthy of sympathy and care are long past.”

This video helps convey what the experience of withdrawal may have felt like to Herr.

This is not the first time that a correctional facility has had to pay up after letting an inmate die from withdrawal symptoms. The estate of one 37 year old woman in Colorado received $2.5 million in November 2016 for a preventable death. But Herr’s seems to be one of the largest settlement anywhere for such a death.

Herr was a 2014 graduate of Cedar Crest High School, and a private Facebook group in her honor has nearly 5,000 members.

For more on the settlement, check out the Lebanon Daily News or Penn Live.

Earlier coverage by the Daily News

Cellmate recalls Tori Herr’s final days

Tori Herr’s mother sues county over death

Herr’s story has also been covered by Vice and the Reading Eagle and syndicated broadly the Associated Press.

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